Weebly

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Weebly Review

Author:/ Date: November 5, 2017

9.0

Highlights:

  • Incredibly user-friendly, with excellent drag-and-drop functionality
  • Class-leading App Center; adding integrations is simple
  • Missing key features, compared to its rivals
  • Questionable customer support
  • Good free SEO tools

About Weebly:

Weebly offers a fair priced and easy-to-use website builder. With exceptional speed and security, the website building process is top notch and is also accompanied by a solid onboarding and educational system. What Weebly lacked in the past was modern and varied template selection. Well, that’s in the past, as Weebly have upgraded their selection with lots of cutting-edge options.

You can begin with the free pricing plan and, if you like it, upgrade to one of their four pricing plans.

 

Pricing

Starter

$8/mo

Free domain

Pro

$12/mo

Phone customer support

Business

$25/mo

Unlimited ecommerce products

Introduction

The founders of Weebly lived out every budding tech entrepreneur’s dream.
All three were students at the same university, aged 22, when they decided to create a website builder. From the beginning, they wanted Weebly to be easier to use than other website builders; something that’s still a focus today. They expanded rapidly over the next decade, and are now estimated to have around 40 million registered users.
Let’s get started with the Weebly website builder review and see how it compares to the other major UK website builders. For the record, I’m writing this Weebly review based on my own experience of using it.

Usability

The interface is arguably the most important part of a website builder. A poor interface can turn you off straight away, while an intuitive one can certainly make your life a whole lot easier.
The Weebly signup process is incredibly swift, requiring to fill in literally three fields.
Then you’re then presented with basic themes to choose from. They are broken down by section: ‘Business’, ‘Blog’, and so on.
After that, you’re ready to go.
The first thing I noticed when presented with my Weebly page was that all of the elements I needed were laid out in a menu on the left side of the screen. That goes from the basic stuff – adding text boxes and images – to things like embedding code, adding YouTube videos, and adding social media icons. They’re not hidden inside sub-menu after sub-menu: they’re all right there, ready to be used.
If that sounds overwhelming, it’s not. Instead, it simply makes you aware of all the things you can do with your new website. It’s an empowering feeling.
The mechanics of adding and moving around elements are extremely intuitive. Drag-and-drop has been a focus for Weebly since the very beginning, and it shows. Some website builders make you feel as if you can only put certain elements in certain places. With Weebly, the whole process is a lot smoother; wherever you want to add something, you can add it, quickly and easily.
So, now we know how easy it is to add new stuff. How about the editing side of things?
Text editing is fine but certainly not outstanding. There’s a decent range of options when you’re editing a text box and more when you edit text via the overall theme settings. People expecting the level of functionality a word processor gives you, however, will be disappointed.
Likewise, the photo editing capabilities are okay but not exceptional. All the basic features you’d expect are present, including a (pleasingly wide) selection of filters and the ability to adjust contrast, brightness, and so on. It does lack, however, the potential good photo editing tools provide: to make even the most amateurish pictures look professional in seconds. Compared to other website builders, like Jimdo, these image editing tools are slightly disappointing.
For the rest of Weebly’s website building features, you can use the menu bar at the top. This allows you to swiftly move between all the sections you need, like ‘Theme’, ‘Store’, ‘Blog’, ‘Apps’ and ‘Settings’. Again, the layout is extremely intuitive here, with everything being exactly where you’d expect.
Overall, I’d say Weebly’s user interface is fantastic. You’ll genuinely get to grips with it within five minutes, and if you want to dip into more complicated stuff, it’s easy to do with their excellent menus.

Themes

The Weebly website builder themes are broken down by section, depending on what your website is intended for: ‘Portfolio’, ‘Business, ‘Store’ etc. Some sections only have 6 themes to choose from (which isn’t great), while others have as many as 16.
The Weebly website builder templates look good, but at the time of writing there are only 48 total choices, which lags some way behind competitors such as Wix. It’s worth noting, however, that all of Weebly’s built-in themes are free.
Technically, there isn’t any kind of ‘Custom Theme’ option when you’re getting started. That being said, once you have selected one of the Weebly templates, you can immediately clone it, then go into the code and start editing, before saving it as your own theme. Even if you don’t know coding, customizing one of the preset themes to your liking is easy enough.
One final criticism of Weebly’s themes: it’s 2017 now, and they still aren’t retina friendly! This means the photos on your Weebly site will appear in a noticeably worse way when displayed on some Apple devices. With many website builders including retina-friendly images as standard, this is a disappointing omission to say the least.

Mobile Friendly

Weebly were a little late to the mobile-friendly party, having no responsive themes until late 2014. That being said, all of Weebly’s new themes are now responsive. This works well in practice, with the themes being entirely consistent whether you access your site on a desktop or mobile device.
One nice touch is that on the menu along the top of the Weebly website builder screen, there’s a button that allows you to instantly switch between desktop and mobile views of your site. That means that, if you want to design a website that specifically prioritizes mobile users, it’s extremely easy to do so.
(Note: Check out the ‘Performance’ section of my Weebly review, to find out how well Weebly websites run on mobile devices.)

Features

The best website builders have a wide range of well-developed features, which help them appeal to lots of different customers. Let’s take a deeper look into some of Weebly’s features. The best website builders have a wide range of well-developed features, which help them appeal to lots of different customers. Let’s take a deeper look into some of Weebly’s features.

  • Blogs

On the plus side, it’s extremely easy to add a blog to your Weebly website. You simply add a new page, and select ‘Blog Page’ as the type. The blog automatically follows the theme of the rest of your site, but you can still alter the blog’s layout to make it a little different if you’d prefer.
That aside, however, the Weebly blog offering is disappointing. It’s easy to understand for beginners, but there is a definite lack of options that will frustrate more experienced bloggers. I’m not necessarily expecting tools as powerful as those you’d find on WordPress, but I’d like a bit more depth.
The most glaring problem is that there are no tags for your blog post. Nowadays, it’s a pretty basic requirement to have both categories and tags for your blogs. Weebly only has categories, which is effectively supposed to serve as a combination of the two. This is a pretty baffling omission, and one which will frustrate people who want to boost their blog’s SEO through methods that don’t require coding knowledge.

  • SSL

Here, unfortunately, we find another big problem with Weebly’s offerings.
Back in late 2016, Google Chrome – by far the most popular web browser – started docking websites that didn’t have SSL security. Well, unless you buy the most expensive packages, Weebly’s website builder does not feature SSL security.
Weebly representatives have offered a number of excuses for this, but the fact is that most of its main competitors – website builders in the UK like Wix, Squarespace and Jimdo, to name but a few – have SSL security available to all users. The fact that it’s unavailable to Weebly customers who can’t afford – or simply don’t want – a more expensive package is very disappointing.

  • Ecommerce

For detailed information about what each price package offers, in terms of ecommerce, please see the ‘Pricing’ section of my Weebly review.
In terms of the mechanics, Weebly’s ‘Store’ area is extremely easy to navigate. The layout, in typical Weebly fashion, is fantastic. When you go to the ‘Overview’ page, you’re given a comprehensive list of all the options you’re most likely to need: ‘Add a Product’, ‘Start Accepting Payments’, ‘Set up Shipping’, and so on. Click on one, and you’re taken to the relevant section, which you’re guided through by helpful, concise advice from Weebly.
Thanks to an excellent user interface, setting up an ecommerce store on Weebly couldn’t be easier. You can have a basic online store created and ready to go within mere hours.

  • Email 

For their email capabilities, Weebly have partnered with G Suite; a smart move, when so many people are now using Gmail as their default email account.
You’ll need to pay to set up a dedicated email address for your Weebly website, but that’s standard practice across the industry. You can try out a 15 day free trial, before signing up for $4.08 per user, per month. After that you can manage your email account directly through G Suite, just as you would with a standard Gmail account.

  • Newsletters

Finally, I want to highlight Weebly’s excellent newsletter functionality. You’ll find newsletter signup forms in plenty of its competitor’s offerings, but the Weebly version has to be one of the best I’ve seen.
‘Newsletter Form’ is listed as a standard element when you’re editing your page, meaning you can simply click and drag to add it. You can then link it immediately to your email address (note: this can be your own email address; you don’t need to sign up to Weebly’s email system), and the people who sign up will also be stored in a dedicated database.

Integrations

This is one area in which Weebly really stands out.

All the major website builders offer integrations: it’s an easy way to link up with the community, and fill in the gaps of features that they haven’t develop themselves. Weebly, however, take this one step further with their dedicated ‘App Center’.

It is extremely simple to access: you simply click on ‘Apps’ on the main menu bar along the top. You then have the option to choose between apps that have specifically been designed by Weebly or those which have been created by third-party developers. You can instantly see the average reviews that each app has received, see whether they’re free or paid; adding them is as simple as clicking the ‘Add’ button.

This is a huge plus-point in Weebly’s favour and an easy way of immediately boosting the functionality of your website.

Performance

To gauge the performance of websites for my Weebly review, I used Google’s free PageSpeed Insight tool. I tested five random websites, of varying degrees of size and professionalism, and in various sectors (ecommerce stores, blogs, etc.).

The results were… disappointing.

Regarding the desktop performance, the five websites averaged a score of just 43.6/100, judged by Google as ‘Poor’. Mobile performance was even worse, with the sites averaging 40.6/100.

To be clear, all of these websites were fully constructed and all had attractive appearances. Under the hood, however, Weebly’s performance clearly leaves a lot to be desired. It’s normal for mobile sites, using automatic responsiveness, to perform worse than desktop sites. For both versions to perform poorly, however, it is not a good sign.

SEO

In terms of the basic SEO functions which you’d expect a website builder to include, Weebly covers its bases well.
You can make SEO-related changes to each page individually, including: adding meta keywords, descriptions and titles, changing the URL, even altering the header and footer coding. All of these are done via a simple, intuitive menu. Sitemaps are generated automatically and then you can submit them manually to search engines like Google and Bing.
Pleasingly, none of these basic features are hidden behind a paywall. All of them are accessible for every user, even if you’re creating a website for free.
If you want access to Weebly’s own statistic tool, you’ll have to pay for it. It’s available for every package except for the free one, meaning that even if you’re only signed up for the cheapest Weebly plan you can still use it. If you are a free user, you can, of course, simply hook up your website to Google Analytics.

Pricing

Now, for arguably the most important section of all: the Weebly website builder pricing!

Weebly offers five different packages. The first – Free – has no ecommerce functionality.  The most expensive – Performance – is specifically designed for power sellers. The middle three offer a good mix of website and ecommerce features, with the capabilities obviously increasing depending on how much you pay.

You can check out each plan in detail at Weebly.com/Pricing. For now, let’s take a quick look at each plan, and the extra features you get with each tier (note: all features of the previous tier are either included or upgraded in the next tier).

Free:

  • 500MB storage
  • Weebly.com subdomain
  • Chat and email customer support

Starter – $8/month

  • No Weebly ads
  • Unlimited storage
  • Free domain
  • $100 Google Ads credit
  • Weebly statistics
  • Up to 10 ecommerce products

Pro – $12/month

  • Intra-site search
  • Up to 100 members
  • Up to 25 ecommerce products
  • Phone customer support

Business – $25/month

  • Unlimited members
  • Unlimited ecommerce products
  • Various ecommerce features, including inventory management and SSL security

Performance – $38/month

  • Email marketing ($96 value)
  • Lots and lots of ecommerce features, including real-time shipping rates
  • Gift cards
  • 5 email marketing campaigns per month, to 500 contacts

I think this pricing structure scales brilliantly. If you just want to test Weebly’s platform, the Free package is fine. For a minimal cost of $8/month, the Starter package gets you a free domain, and lets you get started on an online store. At the top end, $38/month isn’t bad at all for a Performance package which effectively allows you to run a powerhouse ecommerce store.

Finally, before closing out this section, I must mention the wonderful Weebly for Education package, which is separated from the others. This completely free offering allows teachers to create a classroom website. Teachers can then add their students to the website, where they can do things like create e-portfolios and submit homework assignments. It’s all done using Weebly’s extremely easy to use, drag-and-drop based website builder and includes administrative tools that teachers can use to manage their students’ accounts.

Weebly for Education gets an A grade from me!

Customer Support

When it comes to the Weebly website builder customer support, even free users get access to both email and live chat; you won’t find that with all website builders (we’re looking at you, Jimdo!).

When I contacted them, the live chat customer support operative responded quickly and was extremely friendly and helpful. They, together with the telephone support staff, are available 7 days per week, for 12 hours on weekdays and 9 hours on weekends. That’s pretty great, as it means that whenever you’re working on your site, you’re not far away from expert support. As for support tickets (email, basically), they’re answered 24/7, which is obviously fantastic.

In my experience, I received a helpful reply promptly.

Having said that, it’s worth noting that Weebly’s customer support has a mixed reputation online. On Trustpilot, for example, they have an awful rating: 3.4/10, based on 137 reviews, with people frequently citing poor customer service as a major criticism. Accordingly, I may simply have been lucky that my dealings with them turned out so well. It’s definitely something to be aware of, if you’re likely to need a lot of support from Weebly’s team.

Conclusion

I can summarize my feelings on Weebly in one word: ‘frustrated’.
They get so many things right. Creating, adding to and editing a website couldn’t be easier, with their class-leading drag-and-drop functionality. The whole experience is intuitive; you really will get the hang of it almost immediately. On top of that, the App Center makes adding integrations a joy.
Unfortunately, there are also severe drawbacks that shouldn’t be ignored. You simply can’t fight the feeling that they’re several years behind their competitors in a variety of areas. Why can’t you add tags, as well as categories, to blogs? Why is there no SSL security, except for the most expensive package? Why aren’t websites suitable for retina displays?
These are features that should have been implemented months, if not years ago, and ones which are seen as standard in the industry now. Because of this – and widely-spread reports of customer support ineptitude – I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Weebly.
If you’re building your first website, it’s a great place to start. If you’re looking for something completely up-to-date, you should probably look elsewhere.
If you have a different opinion – perhaps a more positive one – then let me hear it in the Weebly website builder user reviews section! I’d love to know what you think.

Conclusion

Rating
9.0

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